Monthly Archives: May 2012

“Η ντροπή της Ευρώπης”

O γερμανός νομπελίστας Γκύντερ Γκρας (Günter Grass) στηλιτεύει την πολιτική που ασκεί η Ευρώπη στην Ελλάδα, “την κοιτίδα του ευρωπαϊκού πολιτισμού”. \

«Ελλάδα, χώρα δίχως δικαιώματα»
Στο φύλλο του Σαββάτου της εφημερίδας Süddeutsche Zeitung ο Günter Grass υπερασπίζεται τους Έλληνες και την Ελλάδα, και στηλιτεύει την ευρωπαϊκή πολιτική έναντι της χώρας. Ο Γκρας διαμαρτύρεται επειδή η Ελλάδα “ως χρεοφειλέτης δακτυλοδείχνεται γυμνή”, μια “χώρα καταδικασμένη στη φτώχεια”, “στο χάος κοντά, επειδή στις αγορές δεν ανταποκρίνεται”. Η Ελλάδα “είναι χώρα χωρίς δικαιώματα, που η δικαιούχα εξουσία της σφίγγει το λουρί όλο και περισσότερο.” Το ποίημα αποτελείται από δώδεκα δίστιχα και είναι εμφανές ότι ο λογοτέχνης κατέβαλε μεγαλύτερη προσπάθεια να του δώσει λυρική μορφή.
Στη νέα ποιητική του παρέμβαση ο Γκράς κατηγορεί τους Ευρωπαίους εταίρους της Ελλάδας ότι της κόβουν την “ανάσα ζωής” με τα μέτρα λιτότητας που επιβάλλουν κάθε τόσο. Σε αντίθεση με τον αρχαίο φιλόσοφο Σωκράτη, που μετά την καταδίκη του σε θάνατο χωρίς να φέρει καμία αντίσταση είχε πιει το κώνειο, ο Γκύντερ Γκρας συλλαμβάνει με ποιητικούς όρους τις αντιστάσεις στην πολιτική λιτότητας: “Πιες, επιτέλους πιές! ουρλιάζουν οι χειροκροτητές των κομισάριων, αλλά ο Σωκράτης με οργή επιστρέφει σε σένα το ξέχειλο ποτήρι.”

Η Ελλάδα “εκτιμάται κάτω από την αξία του παλιοσίδερου”

Η Ελλάδα “είναι χώρα χωρίς δικαιώματα, που η δικαιούχα εξουσία της σφίγγει το λουρί όλο και περισσότερο.”

Η Ευρώπη, που η κοιτίδα της είναι η Ελλάδα και που ως σήμερα ακόμη αναγνωρίζει ως συστατικό στοιχείο της ταυτότητάς της τον αρχαίο ελληνικό πολιτισμό, υπονομεύει κατά τον γερμανό νομπελίστα με την πολιτική της λιτότητας τις ίδιες τις αξίες της: “Αυτό που αναζήτησες με την ψυχή, που πίστεψες πως βρέθηκε, βγαίνει ασήμαντο τώρα, εκτιμάται λιγότερο κι από τα παλιοσίδερα.”
Απευθυνόμενος στους Γερμανούς συμπατριώτες του ο Γκύντερ Γκρας(Günter Grass) τους υπενθυμίζει τον ρόλο της Γερμανίας ως κατοχικής δύναμης στην Ελλάδα κατά την περίοδο του Δευτέρου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου: “Αυτοί που έπληξαν με την βία των όπλων την ευλογημένη με νήσους χώρα, φέραν μαζί με τη στολή τον Χέλντερλιν στο σάκο.” Και σαν μια άλλη Κασσάνδρα, που όπως είναι γνωστό οι προφητείες της έβγαιναν πάντα αληθινές, ο Γκράς προειδοποιεί: “Ανούσια θα μαραζώσεις χωρίς τη χώρα, της οποίας το πνεύμα εσένα, Ευρώπη, επινόησε.”

Europas Schande

Ein Gedicht von Günter Grass

Dem Chaos nah, weil dem Markt nicht gerecht,
bist fern Du dem Land, das die Wiege Dir lieh.

Was mit der Seele gesucht, gefunden Dir galt,
wird abgetan nun, unter Schrottwert taxiert.

Als Schuldner nackt an den Pranger gestellt, leidet ein Land,
dem Dank zu schulden Dir Redensart war.

Zur Armut verurteiltes Land, dessen Reichtum
gepflegt Museen schmückt: von Dir gehütete Beute.

Die mit der Waffen Gewalt das inselgesegnete Land
heimgesucht, trugen zur Uniform Hölderlin im Tornister.

Kaum noch geduldetes Land, dessen Obristen von Dir
einst als Bündnispartner geduldet wurden.

Rechtloses Land, dem der Rechthaber Macht
den Gürtel enger und enger schnallt.

Dir trotzend trägt Antigone Schwarz und landesweit
kleidet Trauer das Volk, dessen Gast Du gewesen.

Außer Landes jedoch hat dem Krösus verwandtes Gefolge
alles, was gülden glänzt gehortet in Deinen Tresoren.

Sauf endlich, sauf! schreien der Kommissare Claqueure,
doch zornig gibt Sokrates Dir den Becher randvoll zurück.

Verfluchen im Chor, was eigen Dir ist, werden die Götter,
deren Olymp zu enteignen Dein Wille verlangt.

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The Crisis of European Democracy

0523OPEDstolle-articleLarge

IF proof were needed of the maxim that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the economic crisis in Europe provides it. The worthy but narrow intentions of the European Union’s policy makers have been inadequate for a sound European economy and have produced instead a world of misery, chaos and confusion.

There are two reasons for this.

First, intentions can be respectable without being clearheaded, and the foundations of the current austerity policy, combined with the rigidities of Europe’s monetary union (in the absence of fiscal union), have hardly been a model of cogency and sagacity. Second, an intention that is fine on its own can conflict with a more urgent priority — in this case, the preservation of a democratic Europe that is concerned about societal well-being. These are values for which Europe has fought, over many decades.

Certainly, some European countries have long needed better economic accountability and more responsible economic management. However, timing is crucial; reform on a well-thought-out timetable must be distinguished from reform done in extreme haste. Greece, for all of its accountability problems, was not in an economic crisis before the global recession in 2008. (In fact, its economy grew by 4.6 percent in 2006 and 3 percent in 2007 before beginning its continuing shrinkage.)

The cause of reform, no matter how urgent, is not well served by the unilateral imposition of sudden and savage cuts in public services. Such indiscriminate cutting slashes demand — a counterproductive strategy, given huge unemployment and idle productive enterprises that have been decimated by the lack of market demand. In Greece, one of the countries left behind by productivity increases elsewhere, economic stimulation through monetary policy (currency devaluation) has been precluded by the existence of the European monetary union, while the fiscal package demanded by the Continent’s leaders is severely anti-growth. Economic output in the euro zone continued to decline in the fourth quarter of last year, and the outlook has been so grim that a recent report finding zero growth in the first quarter of this year was widely greeted as good news.

There is, in fact, plenty of historical evidence that the most effective way to cut deficits is to combine deficit reduction with rapid economic growth, which generates more revenue. The huge deficits after World War II largely disappeared with fast economic growth, and something similar happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The much praised reduction of the Swedish budget deficit from 1994 to 1998 occurred alongside fairly rapid growth. In contrast, European countries today are being asked to cut their deficits while remaining trapped in zero or negative economic growth.

There are surely lessons here from John Maynard Keynes, who understood that the state and the market are interdependent. But Keynes had little to say about social justice, including the political commitments with which Europe emerged after World War II. These led to the birth of the modern welfare state and national health services — not to support a market economy but to protect human well-being.

Though these social issues did not engage Keynes deeply, there is an old tradition in economics of combining efficient markets with the provision of public services that the market may not be able to deliver. As Adam Smith (often seen simplistically as the first guru of free-market economics) wrote in “The Wealth of Nations,” there are “two distinct objects” of an economy: “first, to provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or, more properly, to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves; and secondly, to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the public services.”

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Europe’s current malaise is the replacement of democratic commitments by financial dictates — from leaders of the European Union and the European Central Bank, and indirectly from credit-rating agencies, whose judgments have been notoriously unsound.

Participatory public discussion — the “government by discussion” expounded by democratic theorists like John Stuart Mill and Walter Bagehot — could have identified appropriate reforms over a reasonable span of time, without threatening the foundations of Europe’s system of social justice. In contrast, drastic cuts in public services with very little general discussion of their necessity, efficacy or balance have been revolting to a large section of the European population and have played into the hands of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.

Europe cannot revive itself without addressing two areas of political legitimacy. First, Europe cannot hand itself over to the unilateral views — or good intentions — of experts without public reasoning and informed consent of its citizens. Given the transparent disdain for the public, it is no surprise that in election after election the public has shown its dissatisfaction by voting out incumbents.

Second, both democracy and the chance of creating good policy are undermined when ineffective and blatantly unjust policies are dictated by leaders. The obvious failure of the austerity mandates imposed so far has undermined not only public participation — a value in itself — but also the possibility of arriving at a sensible, and sensibly timed, solution.

This is a surely a far cry from the “united democratic Europe” that the pioneers of European unity sought.

 

Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate and a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard, is the author, most recently, of “The Idea of Justice.”

David Icke – Essential Knowledge For A Wall Street Protestor

How not to be scammed by those you are protesting against.

part 1

part2

Greece at the global forefront

  Stathis Gourgouris is Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

 

 

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The elections in Greece are a dramatic articulation of the essential contradiction between democracy and capitalism

Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party, will likely clear the 3 per cent of the vote it needs to gain seats in Parliament [EPA]

New York, NY – On May 6, 2012, the people of Greece are called upon to conduct the most important national elections in their recent history. The gravity of the occasion is not due to the projected outcome, because all projections are at this point no more than gambling odds. Paradoxically, the importance is due to the thorough discrediting of the established party system of the last 40 years: the alternating rule of one nominally right-liberal (New Democracy) and the other nominally socialist (PASOK), who have fully coincided in a mutually reinforcing neoliberal trajectory against the meagre and rather ceremonial opposition of small parties on the Left.

These two political parties are both guilty of partying it up while in power, presiding over the extravagant feast of reckless policies that led to the state’s bankruptcy, as well as the enslaving agreements with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that shifted the burden of the state’s bankruptcy onto every Greek household. As a result, the majority of the Greek electorate justifiably perceives the leaders and ranks of both so-called leading parties to consist of ruthless highway robbers who, in dutiful servitude to international robber barons, have sold out the country like the most despicable of traitors.

During the height of mass demonstrations and the assembly movement in the summer of 2011, this sense of disaffection in the general public targeted the entire ranks of Parliament regardless of party affiliation or personal record. Hence, the ubiquitous chants at the time of “Burn this Brothel of a Parliament” or “Hang All 300” – that is, all three hundred elected Members of Parliament. Subsequent developments that led to the appointment of a non-elected Prime Minister, Loukas Papademos, whose sole qualification for the job was his expert training at the highest ranks of the European Central Bank – exactly like his counterpart Mario Monti in neighbouring Italy – confirmed the population’s disaffection with basic electoral institutions, as the second contract with ECB and IMF, brokered by the Papademos government, brought down even more brutal conditions of impoverishment across the entire terrain of Greek society.

As a result, most polls show that the electorate will seek to punish the two dynastic parties at the ballot box by opting for a cornucopia of smaller parties in both Left and Right. Most certain to gain are the parties of the Left: the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), despite its anachronistic Stalinist dogmatism; the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is a rather heterogeneous group of a great range of leftist tendencies; and Democratic Left, which is a splinter group from SYRIZA, with decidedly moderate Left positions.

New right

There is, however, a new formation on the right. A splinter party from New Democracy, Independent Greeks, seems to have gathered enormous momentum, even though its leader, Panos Kammenos (an old New Democracy member), has never been distinguished for any particular political vision or deed. Paradoxically, the third ranking party in the current parliament, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) – a nationalist party much to the right of New Democracy – is seeing its numbers diminishing no doubt because of the role it played in the negotiations that formed the Papademos government.

In its place, an unprecedented possibility is looming. Bolstered by renegades from LAOS, Golden Dawn, the bona fide neo-Nazi group that as recently as a year ago conducted a pogrom against immigrants in the streets of Athens, seems very likely to clear the 3 per cent that enables a party to be represented in Parliament. By the current system of proportion this means 15 seats. There are also a great number of smaller parties, mostly on the Left, that are seeking representation, though polls show them still under the 3 per cent margin.

As things stand, it is virtually certain that no party will gain the percentage of votes needed to form a majority government. In this case, the only option left is some sort of coalition government that would enable majority control of Parliament. In terms of numbers, the most feasible coalition would emerge from an aggregate of the three parties of the Left.

However, the long term political differences within the Greek Left are as of now insurmountable; antipathies among them are as strong as those against their ideological enemies to the right. There doesn’t seem to be a possibility for a coalition of New Democracy with parties on the right, because both Independent Greeks and LAOS (not to mention Golden Dawn) have explicitly charged them with treason. The ruling PASOK party is headed for a debacle, being fingered as the primary agent of corruption and capitulation. It’s equally unlikely that the shambles of the two dynastic parties will have the requisite numbers to form a coalition government between that would continue to preside over the country’s financial enslavement.

Collapse of credibility

This is a basic description of the electoral field and the projected situation. But what is especially important is the broader social and historical context of these elections. The collapse of credibility in the entire political system underlies the essential paradox of these elections: a bankrupt country, whose population is profoundly disaffected with the political system, gathers to exercise its democratic right to elect officials that are to preside over a national terrain that has effectively lost its sovereignty.

We are witnessing a dramatic articulation of the essential contradiction between democracy and capitalism. More than ever, this is the essential political problem of our times. While the nation-state still remains the requisite form of society’s self-determination, the pillar of integrity of the nation-form since the advent of modernity – namely, national economy – is now thoroughly dismantled by the dynamics of a globalised economy that could care less about national boundaries, cultural particularities, social histories, or even more, societies themselves as self-recognised collectives of real men and women whose very conditions of life are at stake.

This is not meant to be taken metaphorically. The lives of Greeks are literally perishing in order to satisfy ruthless profit margins of global capital. Suicide rates have tripled in the last year, in a country that statistically held the lowest suicide rate in the world. Suicides have now become a daily occurrence, a bona fide social phenomenon in a society that may be characterised in all kinds of ways, but it could never be known for either its violence or its depressive behaviour. Many more than those who choose to take their lives so as not to saddle their families with insurmountable debt are living in borderline hunger conditions, a level of poverty not seen since the Second World War and its aftermath.

Moreover, these conditions have been created with unprecedented speed – a kind of flash impoverishment on a mass scale, which can only happen when all terms of national economy are annihilated and external financial forces wield direct political power over a national terrain. This is why, though Greece still exists on the map of nations under a sovereign flag, it is effectively a country on hold – or under hold, a country whose sovereignty has been mortgaged.

The social effects of these conditions are devastating. It is often said that the German government has spearheaded this brutal austerity program because it is haunted by its Weimar past: hyperinflation, impoverishment, social capitulation, political malaise, and the rise of Fascism. What seems to have escaped the pundits who trade such clichés is that German policies are producing new Weimars elsewhere in Europe.

Surely, certain aspects of the Greek situation corroborate this fact. The increasing public presence of Golden Dawn is no accident. This neo-Nazi fringe group is exploiting the surge of nationalist sentiment that has emerged as a kind of defensive knee-jerk reaction of a people who suddenly have to endure not only conditions of flash impoverishment but also an onslaught of Orientalist attacks on its character and its history. This is a typical situation, hardly particular to Greeks. Coupled with the collapse of credibility in the entire political system, a resurgent defensive nationalism does render society vulnerable to fascist practices.

Role of the left

This is why the role of the Greek Left is right now more important to the future of Greece than it has been since 1944. The experience of the Greek Civil War (1946-49), the subsequent repression of democratic left tendencies in the 1950s, and the military junta years (1967-74), are still engraved in the Greek political psyche. The majority of Greeks remain passionate about democratic politics; the recent experience of assembly movement and demand for direct democracy (summer 2011) is perfectly indicative of this fact. Hence, the numbers of Golden Dawn, though increased, are not substantial enough yet to influence national politics, and there have been several occasions (especially in Crete) where Golden Dawn campaigns have been forcefully expelled from the premises.

But the nationalist and anti-immigrant discourse is broad and substantial, even if not immediately reducible to fascist tendencies. It is the grave responsibility of the Left, especially SYRIZA (whose swelling numbers may render it a real broker of government formation after the election), to articulate this sentiment of defiance away from a dead-end nationalism and toward greater democratic empowerment. This stands to benefit not just Greeks but the broader demands of European peoples, who find themselves on the brink of similar dismantling of their sovereignty by global capital, which has turned European political leaders to mere stooges.

Any assessment of this situation would have to confront the fact that Greece marks the terrain of a specific experiment: How far can the commands of globalised economy push against a specific society’s endurance or will? From the perspective of global capital, Greece is a low-risk entity if the experiment fails. It is a small economy, rather inconsequential worldwide, hence of limited liability from a strictly economic standpoint.

The political stakes, however, are of unprecedented consequence. As the institutions of the European Union are failing and national sovereignty is waning, the only option for European peoples to protect their future is to mobilise broad and defiant democratic movements that will regain control of the political terrain from global market forces. The experiment cuts both ways, and as rebelling youth all over the globe explicitly articulates, Greece is, right now, at the forefront of this battle.

Stathis Gourgouris is Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University

Greece: Civil war, but not as you know it.

Antonis Vradis is a doctoral candidate at LSE, co-editor of the book Revolt and Crisis in Greece, member of the Occupied London collective and Alternatives Editor of CITY.


As the economic situation in Greece worsens, so too does its political climate.

 

Loverdos is a minister for so-called Social Solidarity – hardly what one would expect from his issuing of compulsory health certificates for all migrants, says the author [AP]

London, United Kingdom – On April 1, 2012 two ministers of the Greek coalition government held a joint press conference: Michalis Chrisochoidis, minister for Citizen Protection (administering the police) and Andreas Loverdos, minister for Health and Social Solidarity, called for an immediate addressing of the issue of undocumented migration in the country. The migrants’ presence had turned, in their words, the centre of Athens into a “hygienic bomb”. The two announced a series of measures including the compulsory issuing of a health certificate for all migrants entering and residing in Greece. Days earlier Chrisochoidis had again announced, on behalf of the coalition government, an ambitious plan to create thirty so-called “closed hospitality centres”: former military bases converted in detention facilities for undocumented migrants who were to be arrested en mass before facing deportation.

The series of announcements came a few weeks ahead of the national elections of May 6, 2012 and, remarkably enough, only days after the publication of an interview by French cultural theorist and urbanist Paul Virilio – titled The Administration of Fear– in which he identified the establishment of a “dual health and security ideology” by Western states unable to any longer offer their citizens the prerogatives of the welfare state, replacing these with a claim that they can cater for their safety instead.

But mainstream discourse in Greece seems to be spiralling beyond xenophobia. Soon after the above press conference, Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative government partner of New Democracy (Nea Demokratia) and touted as the next prime minister, was quick to chime in – and to overbid, even: “our cities have been occupied by illegal migrants”, he declared. “We will reoccupy them.” Such martial tone in leading politicians’ denunciations could appear peculiar at first sight. A country that is still a full member of the European Union, still enjoying one of the longest peacetime periods in its otherwise turbulent recent history, sees politicians use a language of war. Yet still, this language is used only when it comes to external enemies. For domestic matters, the economy, political representation, discourse has changed little, if at all – even though Greek society has seen some of the most dramatic changes ever recorded in the country’s peacetime history. Is that so? Think of the Greek case for a moment. A country experiencing some of the most staggering effects of the recent global financial crisis, anticipating – on May 6 – the first elections since its outburst. You would believe this crisis and its effects on the livelihoods of the population, or the modes of political representation, would take centre stage (Greece is currently governed by a coalition government under Lucas Papademos, an economist and caretaker Prime Minister). The  effects of the crisis had indeed been central in public discourse previous to the announcement of elections, which is when the above anti-migrant shift occurred. It would be easy enough, then, to attribute this rhetorical shift to an attempt to lure an electorate body – an electorate body which, in face of a rapid deterioration of its living standards, seems to have partially taken a disquieted turn. In Virilio’s reasoning, there might be little to offer them other than a promise of security.

The hidden casualties of economic restructuring

Just short of two years after the Greek government signed its first memorandum of understanding with the so-called “troika” (IMF/EU/ECB), the radical restructuring programme accompanying it has had some cataclysmic effects. In April 2010, the month before the signing of the first memorandum, the official unemployment figure stood at 11.7 per cent. Less than two years later (Jan 2012) that figure had risen to 21.8 per cent. In the same month, the National Statistical Service (ELSTAT) reported that youth unemployment had for the first time tipped over half of the entire population group (age 15 to 24). At 50.8 per cent, the figure had more than doubled in three years. And these numbers fail to portray a much wider landscape of informal/part-time employment, wild precarity, a rapid decrease in wages and pension payments (the national minimum wage was decreased by approximately 20 per cent alone). This condition is complimented by a spectacular increase in state taxation (numerous new taxes along with sharp increases in existing ones) and – rather unsurprisingly, then – a major wave of emigration that has so far been largely undocumented in official statistics, in part due to the unrestricted migration allowed to citizens of Schengen countries within the entire area. Last but of course not least, Greece has seen the highest rate of year-to-year suicide increase in the EU.

Think of words like famine, mass emigration, “humanitarian crisis” (reported in Athens by the UN Regional Information Centre and several NGOs) and cities that are “occupied” – and you would be excused to believe they are used to describe a war zone of some kind. For many of those experiencing the shifting economic, social and political conditions on the ground, this already feels very much so. The death note of  Dimitris Christoulas, the 77-year old pensioner who publicly committed suicide in Athens’ Syntagma square, seeped through some immense anger: “if a fellow Greek was to grab a Kalashnikov,” wrote Christoulas, “I would be the second after him.”

Uncivil reality and an unspoken, civil war

Christoulas’ suicide was sympathetically and widely reported in national media, momentarily breaking through a veil of silence covering the wave of suicides that was to be laid again only days later when Savas Metoikidis, a 45-year old teacher, also ended his life as an act of political protest. Yet still, what largely went unreported in Christoulas’ case was that his suicide note called for an armed uprising, for “young people with no future to… take up arms and hang this country’s traitors.” The disparity between the note Christoulas left behind and national media coverage widely “condemning” the skirmishes that followed his death and funeral as violent is exemplary of an official discourse that has largely obfuscated the root causes of the crisis, soothing the description of its effects and projecting, finally, a language of war on “outsiders” instead – these “outsiders” ranging from foreign centres of power (Germany, the EU) all the way to undocumented migrants. Barely surprisingly, then, the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn has found itself being shifted from the social and political margins to the space in the centre of public discourse, by now standing a more than tangible chance of entering the next parliament.

But the case of Golden Dawn is typical of another peculiar, wider condition. For all its obvious connections to neo-Nazi ideology and activities, the group denies this label – opting for the ostensibly milder “nationalist movement” instead. The Golden Dawn are so-called nationalists. Chrisochoidis is a minister for so-called Citizen Protection (a euphemism for the administering of the Greek police, whose human rights abuse record is becoming notorious). Loverdos is a minister for so-called Social Solidarity (perhaps hardly what one would expect from his issuing of compulsory health certificates for all migrants). The unprecedented restructuring of the country’s political economic and social life is articulated through little beyond a series of so-called memorandums of agreement and the need to abide to them: in all, even if the condition of everyday life in Greece is ever-increasingly akin to that of wartime this war still resembles little of the armed conflicts in the country’s recent past. If this is a war, it is a civil, not a Civil one: a war in which the ferocious condition that an ever-increasing proportion of the population is faced with is articulated in a remarkably subdued, civil tone.

With an ever-increasing disparity between events on the ground and their articulation it was only a matter of time before the plexus of power would have to declare a war in some direction, as a tried and tested means to keep hold of its legitimisation. In this sense, it is barely surprising to see this is war now being waged against the weakest, with xenophobic discourse running rife and Nazi followers gaining a foothold in mainstream political representation. And yet for many, the introduction of martial undertones in this official discourse finally reveals – even if skewed – a previously undeclared war that has been raging domestically and on the ground. This had so far been a war of no words; in recent days and weeks, it has become a war of false words. What becomes a pivotal question then is if and when Greece’s combatant condition will be articulated coherently; whether and when this veil of civility over a society largely at war will finally be lifted.

 

Antonis Vradis is a doctoral candidate at LSE, co-editor of the book Revolt and Crisis in Greece [AK Press, 2011], member of the Occupied London collective and Alternatives Editor of CITY.

 

APOCALYPTIC DEPOPULATION AGENDA: ROYAL SOCIETY THINK TANK RELEASES ‘PEOPLE AND THE PLANET’

by Brandon Turbeville

Clearly in the tradition of Malthus and Ehrlich, a recent report released by the Royal Society predicts a “downward spiral of economic and environmental ills” if the world’s population is not soon drastically curbed. The study, entitled, “People And The Planet,” openly calls for Western deindustrialization, increased “family planning” (particularly in the Third World), implementation of Agenda 21, and a solidification of the current claims that population increases are directly related to environmental degradation within the public discourse.

The report, whose alleged goal was to evaluate the state of humanity for the next 100 years and provide recommendations for its improvement, calls for the issues of population and consumption be pushed to the top of the global political and economic agendas.

The report begins by stating that “The number of people living on the planet has never been higher, their levels of consumption are unprecedented and vast changes are taking place in the environment.” This statement, of course, is true. Yet the number of people on the planet, as it currently stands, is not responsible for these changes. This much has been repeatedly demonstrated.

Nevertheless, the report establishes two issues that it claims are absolutely critical to the health and wellbeing of the planet as well as “future generations” – population growth and the consumption economy.

The report states:

The annual rate of global population growth has slowed from its peak at above 2.0% in the mid 1960s; fertility rates have fallen so that in 2010 almost 48% of world population had a total fertility of less than 2.1 children per woman (UN 2011a). However, rapid population growth continues in some parts of the world. The upward population trend will not reach its peak for another 40 years or more because present day children and the unborn have yet to have children themselves.

In relation to the consumption issue, it says:

The second major issue facing the planet is that, taken as a whole, per capita consumption is increasing. Total consumption will continue to increase as the population gets larger, as more people on the planet means more mouths to feed and more goods to satisfy their aspirations. People depend on their natural environment for meeting many of those needs and desires but overconsumption of material resources is eroding this natural capital. Access to sufficient food, water and fuel for everybody is already a problem (UNDP 2011).

After a great deal of discourse regarding the state of the world’s poor and the increasing level of environmental degradation, “People And The Planet” finally arrives at the familiar conclusion deduced by population reductionists of every generation – that human population growth is currently at a state that will soon outstrip the resources available. In other words, as posited by Thomas Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, and Ted Turner – indefinite growth is not possible in a finite world.

Early eugenicists such as Thomas Malthus have long been proven wrong. Those more recent myth purveyors such as Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren have also been exposed as nothing more than anti-human propagandists serving a much higher agenda than that which is presented to the public.

Now, even after the failures of these theories and predictions, the Royal Society, itself entirely overtaken by the eugenics movement many years ago, has produced “People And The Planet,” another piece of apocalyptic propaganda that will no doubt be proven false just as its predecessors have been in the past.

But the report is not only a critique of the population “boom.” In fact, the Royal Society researchers are forced to admit that there is no population boom due to the fact that there has been a drastic reduction in fertility of the average person, with the notable exception of much of the Third World. It states, “While the average annual rate of population change peaked in the 1960s at 2% and now stands at 1.1% per year, the absolute rate of growth peaked at 89 million per annum in 1988 and now stands at 78 million . . . ”

That being said, the report does offer nine recommendations as to how to combat what it claims is an inevitable disaster so long as humans continue to reproduce. These recommendations are familiar to anyone who has been following the eugenics/population reduction/eco-fascist agenda for any length of time. They are as follows:

  1. The international community must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of absolute poverty, and reduce the inequality that persists in the world today. This will require focused efforts in key policy areas including economic development, education, family planning and health.
  2. The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilize and then reduce material consumption levels through: dramatic improvements in resource use efficiency, including: reducing waste; investment in sustainable resources, technologies and infrastructures; and systematically decoupling economic activity from environmental impact.
  3. Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both nationally and internationally. This is needed to continue the downward trajectory of fertility rates, especially in countries where the unmet need for contraception is high.
  4. Population and the environment should not be considered as two separate issues. Demographic changes, and the influences on them, should be factored into economic and environmental debate and planning at international meetings, such as the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and subsequent meetings.
  5. Governments should realise the potential of urbanization to reduce material consumption and environmental impact through efficiency measures. The well planned provision of water supply, waste disposal, power and other services will avoid slum conditions and increase the welfare of inhabitants.
  6. In order to meet previously agreed goals for universal education, policy makers in countries with low school attendance need to work with international funders and organisations, such as UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, IMF, World Bank and Education For All. Financial and non-financial barriers must be overcome to achieve high-quality primary and secondary education for all the world’s young, ensuring equal opportunities for girls and boys.
  7. Natural and social scientists need to increase their research efforts on the interaction between consumption, demographic change and environmental impact. They have a unique and vital role in developing a fuller picture of the problems, the uncertainties found in all such analyses, the efficacy of potential solutions, and providing an open, trusted source of information for policy makers and the public.
  8. National Governments should accelerate the development of comprehensive wealth measures. This should include reforms to the system of national accounts, and improvement in natural asset accounting.
  9. Collaboration between National Governments is needed to develop socio-economic systems and institutions that are not dependent on continued material consumption growth. This will inform the development and implementation of policies that allow both people and the planet to flourish.

In all fairness, not all of these solutions, at least on their face, are sinister. No one can seriously argue that consumerism is a healthy lifestyle, environmentally friendly, or sustainable. However, we must be careful not to let flowery language and small areas of bleed-over agreement deceive us into believing that the solutions offered by the writers of this report are anything but a plan to reduce the population of what they see as the unfit, useless eaters.

What was once expressed in direct, contemptuous language now requires shadowy coded terminology in order to convey the same concept and, most importantly, to convince the masses that it is for their own best interest for their herd to be culled. Indeed, such wordplay is also necessary so those who are more geared toward self-preservation are not inclined to suspect the threats they must preserve themselves against.

For instance, the term “family planning” is merely another less politically-charged name for abortion and sterilization. Similarly, the UN-based term “sustainable development” represents the removal of humans from rural areas and a return of the average citizen’s living standards to that of the days of feudalism.

Thus, one sees a preponderance of these terms listed in the report’s recommendations. Yet, although much of the language of the report is couched, the authors are still blatant enough to openly state that one of their goals is the continuance “of the downward trajectory of fertility rates.”

While one may be tempted to believe that the term “family planning” repeated ad nauseum in “People And The Planet” merely refers to “sexual education” programs and the distribution of contraceptives, when one reads the report further, it becomes clear that it is, in fact, abortion and various sterilization methods which are favored. This is because, while the former might be cheaper, the latter is much more effective.

In addition, while the authors continuously claim that these population reduction methods must be voluntary, it is also apparent that the opposite will actually be the case. Indeed, the very fact that there is an oligarchy of “experts” guiding the acceptable amount of human beings allowed on the planet by methods involving coercion and/or deceit goes against the very nature of volunteerism.

One should likewise be aware of the treachery contained within the terms “efficiency,” “reducing consumption,” “sustainable development,” and “urbanization.”

All of these terms used in the context of this report refer to the ultimate goal of herding a drastically reduced population of humans into a few major cities under strict guidelines of rationing food and other necessities.

This precisely what is meant when the authors of this report refer to “the potential of urbanization to reduce material consumption and environmental impact through efficiency measures” as well as the “well planned provision of water supply, waste disposal, power and other services.”

All of these recommendations are being implemented currently under plans such as Agenda 21. What is not being implemented at the international level via treaties and agreements between nations is being implemented at the state or even the local level. This local implementation of Agenda 21 is precisely what I discussed in my last article, “South Carolina Moves To Implement Agenda 21 Guidelines.”

Because of the cloaked and stealthy nature of these guidelines and, unfortunately, the misguided aims of decent, well-meaning people as well as the duplicity of ill-intentioned ones, it is often exceptionally difficult to convince the average person of the dangers of plans such as Agenda 21 and those proposed in “People And The Planet.” However, it is imperative that we do just that as time is fast running out.

For all the increase in propaganda coming from organizations associated with the United Nations and various well-funded Foundations, there has also been an increase in the level of awareness of these sinister plans by the general public. Just recently, Texas and Tennessee have taken steps to expose and oppose anti-human programs such as Agenda 21. Arizona has also considered legislation against the proposals.

There are numerous sources from a variety of different backgrounds that discuss the dangers of Agenda 21, and there is never a better time than the present to take advantage of these sources to educate your friends, family, and fellow citizens as to the gradual extinction and mechanization that faces us all.

Don’t be fooled by reports like “People And The Planet.” As one delves deeper into the true motivation behind the implementation of its recommendations, it becomes clear that the army of “experts” expected to guide society into the future truly care about neither the people nor the planet.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions. Turbeville has published over one hundred articles dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville is available for podcast, radio, and TV interviews. Please contact us at activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

Rothschild Wants Iran’s Banks

Could gaining control of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CBI) be one of the main reasons that Iran is being targeted by Western and Israeli powers? As tensions are building up for an unthinkable war with Iran, it is worth exploring Iran’s banking system compared to its U.S., British and Israeli counterparts.

Some researchers are pointing out that Iran is one of only three countries left in the world whose central bank is not under Rothschild control. Before 9-11 there were reportedly seven: Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and Iran. By 2003, however, Afghanistan and Iraq were swallowed up by the Rothschild octopus, and by 2011 Sudan and Libya were also gone. In Libya, a Rothschild bank was established in Benghazi while the country was still at war.

Islam forbids the charging of usury, the practice of charging excessive, unreasonably high, and often illegal interestrates on loans, and that is a major problem for the Rothschild banking system. Until a few hundred years ago usury was also forbidden in the Christian world and was even punishable by death. It was considered exploitation and enslavement.

Since the Rothschilds took over the Bank of England they have been expanding their banking control over all thecountries of the world. Their method has been to get a country’s corrupt politicians to accept massive loans, which they can never repay, and thus go into debt to the Rothschild banking powers. If a leader refuses to accept the loan, he is oftentimes either ousted or assassinated. And if that fails, invasions can follow, and a Rothschild usury-based bank is established.

The Rothschilds exert powerful influence over the world’s major news agencies. By repetition, the masses are duped into believing horror stories about evil villains. The Rothschilds control the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the IMF, the World Bank and the Bank of International Settlements. Also they own most of the gold in the world as well as the London Gold Exchange, which sets the price of gold every day. It is said the family owns over half the wealth of the planet—estimated by Credit Suisse to be $231 trillion—and is controlled by Evelyn Rothschild, the current head of the family.

Objective researchers contend that Iran is not being demonized because they are a nuclear threat, just as the Taliban, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Qadaffi were not a threat.

What then is the real reason? Is it the trillions to be made in oil profits, or the trillions in war profits? Is it to bankrupt the U.S. economy, or is it to start World War III? Is it to destroy Israel’s enemies, or to destroy the Iranian central bank so that no one is left to defy Rothschild’s money racket?

It might be any one of those reasons or, worse—it might be all of them.

By Pete Papaherakles

Ritschl: Αν η Ελλάδα επιτεθεί, μας τα παίρνει όλα!

Για το ελληνικό χρέος μίλησε Γερμανός καθηγητής Ιστορίας-Οικονομίας στο Spiegel σε σκληρή γλώσσα για τη Γερμανία.Ο Γερμανός καθηγητής της Ιστορίας της Οικονομίας Albrecht Ritschl (LSE) τα λέει έξω από τα δόντια για το ελληνικό χρέος στο έξαλλα ανθελληνικό Spiegel, ο δημοσιογράφος του οποίου δεν πιστεύει στα αυτιά του.

Spiegel : Κύριε Ritschl, η Γερμανική κυβέρνηση ενεργεί με ακαμψία στο θέμα της Ελλάδας, στη λογική «λεφτά θα πάρετε μόνο αν κάνετε ό,τι σας λέμε». Κρίνετε δίκαιη αυτή τη συμπεριφορά;

Ritschl : Όχι, είναι απολύτως αδικαιολόγητη. Η Γερμανία έζησε τις μεγαλύτερες χρεοκοπίες της νεότερης ιστορίας. Την σημερινή οικονομική ανεξαρτησία της και το ρόλο του «Δασκάλου της Ευρώπης» η Γερμανία τα χρωστάει… στις ΗΠΑ, οι οποίες μετά τον Α΄ αλλά και τον Β΄ Παγκόσμιο πόλεμο παραιτήθηκαν από το δικαίωμά τους για τεράστια χρηματικά ποσά. Αυτό το ξεχνούν όλοι.

Spiegel : Θα μας πείτε τι ακριβώς συνέβη τότε;

Ritschl : Η δημοκρατία της Βαϊμάρης κατόρθωσε να επιζήσει από το 1924 μέχρι το 1929 αποκλειστικά με δανεικά. Μάλιστα για τις αποζημιώσεις του Α΄ Παγκοσμίου πολέμου δανείστηκε από τις ΗΠΑ. Επρόκειτο για μια «δανειακή Πυραμίδα», η οποία κατέρρευσε με την κρίση του 1931. Τα χρήματα των δανείων των ΗΠΑ είχαν εξαφανιστεί, η ζημιά για τις ΗΠΑ ήταν τεράστια, οι συνέπειες για την παγκόσμια οικονομία καταστροφικές. Μετά τον Β΄ Παγκόσμιο πόλεμο οι ΗΠΑ φρόντισαν να μην θέσει κανείς από τους συμμάχους αξιώσεις για αποζημίωση. Εκτός από μερικές εξαιρέσεις, ματαιώθηκαν όλες οι αξιώσεις μέχρι μια μελλοντική επανένωση της Ανατολικής με τη Δυτική Γερμανία. Αυτό ήταν πολύ ζωτικό για την Γερμανία. Στην ουσία πάνω σε αυτό στηρίχθηκε το περίφημο γερμανικό μεταπολεμικό θαύμα! Παράλληλα όμως, τα θύματα της γερμανικής κατοχής όπως οι Έλληνες, ήταν αναγκασμένα να αποποιηθούν τα δικαιώματα τους για αποζημίωση.

Spiegel : Πόσο μεγάλα ήταν τότε τα ποσά από τις γερμανικές χρεοκοπίες;

Ritschl : Με βάση την οικονομική επιφάνεια που είχαν οι ΗΠΑ κατά την εποχή εκείνη, αναλογικά τα γερμανικά χρέη της δεκαετίας του ‘30 ισοδυναμούν με το κόστος της κρίσης του 2008. Αν τα συγκρίνουμε λοιπόν με τα ελληνικά χρέη, τότε, πιστέψτε, με τα χρέη της Ελλάδας είναι μηδαμινά. Σε σχέση με την οικονομική επιφάνεια της χώρας, η Γερμανία είναι ο μεγαλύτερος αμαρτωλός του 20ου αιώνα και ίσως της νεότερης οικονομικής ιστορίας.

Spiegel : Πόσες φορές έχει χρεοκοπήσει η Γερμανία;

Ritschl : Εξαρτάται πως το υπολογίζει κανείς. Τον τελευταίο αιώνα τουλάχιστον τρεις φορές. Μετά την τελευταία στάση πληρωμών στη δεκαετία του ‘30, ανακουφίστηκε η Γερμανία από τις ΗΠΑ με το γνωστό πλέον haircut, σαν να μετατρέπεις ένα afro look σε φαλάκρα. Από τότε κρατάει η χώρα την οικονομική λάμψη της. Στο ίδιο διάστημα όμως οι υπόλοιποι Ευρωπαίοι δούλευαν σαν τα σκυλιά για να σηκώσουν κεφάλι από τις καταστροφές του πολέμου και τη γερμανική κατοχή. Κι ακόμη το 1990 είχαμε επίσης μια στάση πληρωμών.

Spiegel : Είστε βέβαιος;

Ritschl : Φυσικά! Ήταν όταν ο τότε καγκελάριος Kohl αρνήθηκε να υλοποιήσει τη Συμφωνία του Λονδίνου, του 1953. Η συμφωνία έλεγε ότι οι γερμανικές πολεμικές αποζημιώσεις στην περίπτωση της επανένωσης των δύο Γερμανιών, θα πρέπει να τεθούν υπό επαναδιαπραγμάτευση. Η Γερμανία όμως πλήρωσε ελαχιστότατες αποζημιώσεις μετά το 1990, ούτε τα αναγκαστικά δάνεια που είχε συνάψει, ούτε τα έξοδα κατοχής. Η Ελλάδα είναι ένα από τα κράτη, που δεν πήραν δεκάρα. Μην κρυβόμαστε! Η Γερμανία στον 20ο αιώνα άρχισε δυο πολέμους, ο δεύτερος μάλιστα ήταν πόλεμος αφανισμού και εξολόθρευσης. Στη συνέχεια οι εχθροί της αποποιήθηκαν το δικαίωμά τους εν μέρει ή και καθολικά για αποζημιώσεις. Το περίφημο «γερμανικό θαύμα» συντελέστηκε πάνω στις πλάτες άλλων Ευρωπαίων. Αυτό δεν το ξεχνούν οι Έλληνες.

Spiegel : Αυτή τη στιγμή συζητιέται η διάσωση της Ελλάδας μέσω μιας παράτασης του χρόνου πληρωμής των κρατικών ομολόγων, δηλαδή μιας ελεγχόμενης αναπροσαρμογής των χρεών. Μπορούμε εδώ να μιλάμε για επαπειλούμενη χρεοκοπία;

Ritschl : Βεβαίως! Ακόμη κι αν ένα κράτος δεν είναι εντελώς ανίκανο να ικανοποιήσει τους πιστωτές του, μπορεί να είναι υπό χρεοκοπία. Όπως και στην περίπτωση της Γερμανίας τη δεκαετία του ’50. Είναι ψευδαίσθηση να πιστεύουμε ότι η Ελλάδα θα μπορέσει μόνη της να πληρώσει τα χρέη. Άρα είναι εξ ορισμού χρεοκοπημένη. Επιτέλους θα πρέπει να καθοριστεί, ποια χρηματικά ποσά είναι έτοιμοι οι πιστωτές να θυσιάσουν.

Spiegel : Ναι, αλλά το κράτος που πληρώνει τα περισσότερα είναι η Γερμανία.

Ritschl : Νομίζω πως έτσι θα πρέπει να γίνει. Έχουμε υπάρξει στο παρελθόν υπερβολικά ανέμελοι. Η βιομηχανική μας παραγωγή κέρδισε πολλά από τις υπέρογκες εξαγωγές. Οι ανθελληνικές θέσεις που προβάλλουν τα γερμανικά ΜΜΕ είναι πολύ επικίνδυνες. Μην ξεχνάτε ότι ζούμε μέσα σε ένα γυάλινο σπίτι: Το οικονομικό μας θαύμα έγινε δυνατό αποκλειστικά και μόνο επειδή δεν αναγκαστήκαμε να πληρώσουμε αποζημιώσεις. Οι Έλληνες γνωρίζουν πολύ καλά την εχθρική στάση των γερμανικών ΜΜΕ. Αν η διάθεση των Ελλήνων γίνει πιο επιθετική, μπορεί να αναβιώσουν οι παλιές διεκδικήσεις! Αν αρχίσει η Ελλάδα και αν ποτέ αναγκαστεί η Γερμανία να πληρώσει, τότε θα μας τα πάρουν όλα.

Spiegel : Τι προτείνετε δηλαδή να κάνουμε στο θέμα της Ελλάδας;

Ritschl : Θα έπρεπε να είμαστε ευγνώμονες και να εξυγιάνουμε την Ελλάδα με τα λεφτά μας. Αν εμείς συνεχίζουμε το παιγνίδι των ΜΜΕ, παριστάνοντας τον χοντρό Εμίλ, που καπνίζει το πούρο του και αρνείται να πληρώσει, ίσως κάποιοι μας στείλουν τους παλιούς λογαριασμούς. Οι χρεοκοπίες της Γερμανίας τα περασμένα χρόνια δείχνουν τη λύση: πρέπει τώρα να συμφωνηθεί μια μείωση του χρέους. Όποιος δάνεισε λεφτά στην Ελλάδα, πρέπει να χάσει ένα μεγάλο μέρος τους! Ξέρω πως αυτό θα ήταν καταστροφικό για τις τράπεζες, γι’ αυτό και είναι απαραίτητο ένα πρόγραμμα βοήθειας. Δυστυχώς, η λύση αυτή είναι ακριβή για τη Γερμανία, αλλά πρέπει να καταλάβουμε ότι τελικά θα πρέπει να πληρώσουμε. Μόνο έτσι θα είχε και η Ελλάδα μια ευκαιρία για μια νέα αρχή.

Greece in chaos

Personally and collectively, the Greeks don’t understand and can’t cope with what’s happening now, let alone what will happen next. The welfare state is being swiftly and deliberately dismantled without any time to set up replacements
by Noëlle Burgi

“Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” people ask in Athens, Salonika and right across Greece. There’s a sense of collective imprisonment, individual uncertainty and impending catastrophe. Yet Greece has had a turbulent history, and the Greeks have always seen themselves as a gifted people, sturdy and accustomed to adversity. “There have always been difficult times, and we always made it through. But now, all hope has been taken from us,” said a small business owner.

While the austerity measures are piling up, an avalanche of laws, decrees and edicts is sweeping aside the social, economic and administrative frameworks. Yesterday’s reality is crumbling. As for tomorrow — who knows?

Greek citizens are subject to a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, with its incomprehensible, fluctuating regulations. Addressing colleagues, a civic employee in the Cyclades said: “People want to conform to the law, but we don’t know what to tell them, [the authorities] haven’t given us any details.” A man had to pay € 200 and present 13 papers and proofs of identity to renew his driving license. Salary cuts among public employees have disrupted the public sector. “When you call the police to alert them to a situation, they reply, ‘it’s your problem, you deal with it’,” said a retired engineer officer from the merchant navy. Tensions are rising. Reports show a big increase in domestic violence, theft and murder (1).

Salaries are falling (by 35-40% in some sectors) while new taxes are invented, some backdated to the beginning of the calendar year. Net incomes have fallen drastically, in many cases by 50% or more. Since the summer, a solidarity tax (1-2% of annual income) and an energy tax (calculated on the consumption of petrol and natural gas) have been levied. Further novelties include the lowering of the tax threshold from € 5,000 to € 2,000, and a property tax of € 0.5 to € 20 per square metre levied as part of electricity bills, payable in two or three instalments (failure to pay results in power cuts and penalties).

Since the start of November, pensioners and public and private employees cannot anticipate their monthly earnings. Many workers go without pay altogether. The state is reducing its workforce drastically as part of its restructuring programme. Between now and 2015, 120,000 public employees over the age of 53 have been earmarked for “semi-retirement”, the precursor to full mandatory retirement after 33 years of service, during which employees are obliged to stay at home, and only receive 60% of their basic salaries. Once fully retired, many public employees will be reduced to living on very little. A group of ex-railwaymen, aged 50 and above, said they used to earn between € 1,800 and € 2,000 a month, a relatively comfortable salary in Greece. They have now been posted to jobs as museum guards as part of a “voluntary transition” package (2) and their basic monthly income fluctuates between € 1,100 and € 1,300; semi-retirees are restricted to € 600. All are barred from taking on extra paid work to supplement their income — the penalty, immediate loss of revenue, is enforced.

’Insurance payments have stopped’

The loss of income is tearing society apart. Bills are not paid, consumption is down, stores are closing and unemployment rising. In May the official unemployment rate was 16.6% (10 points higher than in 2008) and 40% among the young. The actual rate is likely to be much higher. The social, economic and political crisis has shaken the national health service. Hospital and public health care centre budgets have been cut by 40% on average. More patients are admitted to the emergency room, others go to Doctors of the World health centres, and many choose to do without medical care altogether. People report being denied access to crucial medicine. One journalist said her father suffers from Parkinson’s disease: “His medication costs € 500 a month. The pharmacy told us it will stop supplying him, because insurance payments have stopped.”

Physical ailments (notably heart conditions) and mental illnesses are increasing at a worrying rate. Recent epidemiological studies have shown that heightened stress, exacerbated by high debt and prolonged unemployment, is generating “major depressive disorders, disruptions and generalised anxiety” (3), which account for a dramatic rise in suicides. According to unofficial figures discussed in parliament, the suicide rate increased by 25% from 2009 to 2010, with a further rise of 40% in the first half of 2011, compared to last year, according to health ministry sources. Figures published in The Lancet (4) reveal an alarming increase in prostitution, as well as infection rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (5). There are unprecedented numbers of homeless people, and they are no longer limited to alcoholics, drug addicts or the mentally ill. A recent study demonstrates that the middle class, the young and the moderately poor are now more likely to end up on the street (6).

The Greeks struggle to see a way out of what a social worker described as a return to a “barbaric” way of life. They feel abandoned and unable to cope. Strong family ties are buckling under the pressure of diminished incomes and a collapsing welfare state. Those who can leave, do so. The options for those remaining are limited. Some turn to the Church, which arranges soup kitchens and other social services. In Salonika, Father Stefanos Tolios of the Orthodox church, is swamped by desperate people looking for work. Residents of several cities (Volos, Patras, Heraklion, Athens, Corfu, Salonika) have set up community-based informal economies, based on local exchange systems. Families are bringing their elderly back from retirement homes, to recover the monthly charge of € 300-400.

No country could withstand this. Greece is worse equipped to deal with the social consequences of the austerity measures imposed with a “scientific cruelty” (7) by the national and transnational elites. Post-1945 Greece, with a weak state and clientelism, had neither the time nor means to build a resilient system of social protection. The existing safety nets are now tearing. “Everything is falling apart,” said Sotiris Lainas, a psychologist and coordinator of the Self Help Promotion Programme at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Salonika).

Who’s to blame?

The previous government, under George Papandreou, scrambled to conform to the demands of the “troika” — the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — for instance by cutting 210 budget lines in the health ministry. No thought was given as to how the budget cuts would undermine the ability of essential (and viable) services to function, such as the day care provided by the Panhellenic Federation of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders. Thus the transnational forces, which for nearly 30 years have worked to erode the welfare state, have passed on the task to national enforcers, themselves longtime beneficiaries of a nepotic, inefficient, corrupt system.

Responsibility for the crisis has been shamelessly dumped upon the Greeks. Accused, but not tried, they have been pronounced guilty because of their association with their inept leaders. Certain sections of the population are exposed to popular fury: seen as a privileged caste, public employees are stigmatised; doctors and shopkeepers are all suspected of untruthful tax filings. But the people know that the system and their leaders are at the root of the rot. Knowledge is not power, though, and the nation is left wondering what to do next.

Patronage and corruption have historical roots. Greece has never enjoyed a modern state with a relatively autonomous bureaucracy, free from private interests, with the capacity to shape economic and social development. Nor has it had a strong civic identity. Foreign powers have imposed their preferences since independence in 1830 (8), when Greece was forcefully integrated into the world capitalist economy in a peripheral position, kept servile and buffeted by various great powers. History has superimposed an artificial political model on a fragmented society traditionally centred on local loyalties, the extended family and community values. As a result, the Greek political system has always been authoritarian and centralised, denying the separation of powers, local autonomy or real democracy (9) — fertile soil for corruption and patronage, which serve the interests and entrench the domination of the elites. The Greeks have resigned themselves to all this.

They are not naive or ignorant of their and their country’s shortcomings. But they are destitute and disempowered. What hope is there for a nation that has proved “fundamentally incapable of forming a political community” (10)? Even if it wanted to return to the pre-crisis days, “when we were living a lie”, as Lainas put it, Greece would be unable to do so. It has been hit too hard, as the repeated calls for order and control make clear. Polls initially favourable to the new government formed by Lucas Papademos, the former governor of the Greek Central Bank replacing Papandreou as prime minister, point to the belief among some Greeks that a technocratic administration might be preferable to the disgraced political class. This does not imply an adherence to the austerity measures, but rather a willingness to set matters right. For some, a strong foreign authority, mentioned by Mario Monti before he became Italy’s prime minister (11), might guarantee an honest and competent government acting in the interests of the country.

But everything points against it. Having seen off their worthless leaders, Greeks may not know who the enemy is any more. “There is no enemy to fight,” said Lainas: “You can’t fight what you can’t see. Their strength lies in abstract governments. Such as the EFSF [European Financial Stability Fund]. The enemy may be abstract, but the tragedy is real. They are stealing our lives, depriving us of a future.”

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique (Rnglish Edition) December 2011

‘Germany Was Biggest Debt Transgressor of 20th Century’

Former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (left) during a meeting with the High Commission of the Allies in 1951: Eschewing of reparations demands “a life-saving gesture”

Think Greece’s current economic malaise is the worst ever experienced in Europe? Think again. Germany, economic historian Albrecht Ritschl argues in a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, has been the worst debtor nation of the past century. He warns the country should take a more chaste approach in the euro crisis or it could face renewed demands for World War II reparations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Ritschl, Germany is coming across like a know-it-all in the debate over aid for Greece. Berlin is intransigent and is demanding obedience from Athens. Is this attitude justified?

Ritschl: No, there is no basis for it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Most Germans would likely disagree.

Ritschl: That may be, but during the 20th century, Germany was responsible for what were the biggest national bankruptcies in recent history. It is only thanks to the United States, which sacrificed vast amounts of money after both World War I and World War II, that Germany is financially stable today and holds the status of Europe’s headmaster. That fact, unfortunately, often seems to be forgotten.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened back then exactly?

Ritschl: From 1924 to 1929, the Weimar Republic lived on credit and even borrowed the money it needed for its World War I reparations payments from America. This credit pyramid collapsed during the economic crisis of 1931. The money was gone, the damage to the United States enormous, the effect on the global economy devastating.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The situation after World War II was similar.

Ritschl: But right afterwards, America immediately took steps to ensure there wouldn’t be a repeat of high reparations demands made on Germany. With only a few exceptions, all such demands were put on the backburner until Germany’s future reunification. For Germany, that was a life-saving gesture, and it was the actual financial basis of the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle (that began in the 1950s). But it also meant that the victims of the German occupation in Europe also had to forgo reparations, including the Greeks.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the current crisis, Greece was initially pledged €110 billion from the euro-zone and the International Monetary Fund. Now a further rescue package of similar dimensions has become necessary. How big were Germany’s previous defaults?

Ritschl: Measured in each case against the economic performance of the USA, the German debt default in the 1930s alone was as significant as the costs of the 2008 financial crisis. Compared to that default, today’s Greek payment problems are actually insignificant.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If there was a list of the worst global bankruptcies in history, where would Germany rank?

Ritschl: Germany is king when it comes to debt. Calculated based on the amount of losses compared to economic performance, Germany was the biggest debt transgressor of the 20th century.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Greece can’t compare?

Ritschl: No, the country has played a minor role. It is only the contagion danger for other euro-zone countries that is the problem.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Germany of today is considered the embodiment of stability. How many times has Germany become insolvent in the past?

Ritschl: That depends on how you do the math. During the past century alone, though, at least three times. After the first default during the 1930s, the US gave Germany a “haircut” in 1953, reducing its debt problem to practically nothing. Germany has been in a very good position ever since, even as other Europeans were forced to endure the burdens of World War II and the consequences of the German occupation. Germany even had a period of non-payment in 1990.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Really? A default?

Ritschl: Yes, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl refused at the time to implement changes to the London Agreement on German External Debts of 1953. Under the terms of the agreement, in the event of a reunification, the issue of German reparations payments from World War II would be newly regulated. The only demand made was that a small remaining sum be paid, but we’re talking about minimal sums here. With the exception of compensation paid out to forced laborers, Germany did not pay any reparations after 1990 — and neither did it pay off the loans and occupation costs it pressed out of the countries it had occupied during World War II. Not to the Greeks, either.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Unlike in 1953, the current debate in Germany over the rescue of Greece is concerned not so much with a “haircut”, but rather an extension of the maturities of government bonds, i.e. a “soft debt restructuring.” Can one therefore even speak of an impending bankruptcy?

Ritschl: Absolutely. Even if a country is not 100 percent out of money, it could still be broke. Just like in the case of Germany in the 1950s, it is illusory to think that Greeks would ever pay off their debts alone. Those who are unable to do that are considered to be flat broke. It is now necessary to determine how high the failure rate of government bonds is, and how much money the country’s creditors must sacrifice. It’s above all a matter of finding the paymaster.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The biggest paymaster would surely be Germany.

Ritschl: That’s what it looks like, but we were also extremely reckless — and our export industry has thrived on orders. The anti-Greek sentiment that iswidespread in many German media outlets is highly dangerous. And we are sitting in a glass house: Germany’s resurgence has only been possible through waiving extensive debt payments and stopping reparations to its World War II victims.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You’re saying that Germany should back down?

Ritschl: In the 20th century, Germany started two world wars, the second of which was conducted as a war of annihilation and extermination, and subsequently its enemies waived its reparations payments completely or to a considerable extent. No one in Greece has forgotten that Germany owes its economic prosperity to the grace of other nations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you mean by that?

Ritschl: The Greeks are very well aware of the antagonistic articles in the German media. If the mood in the country turns, old claims for reparations could be raised, from other European nations as well. And if Germany ever had to honor them, we would all be taken the cleaners. Compared with that, we can be grateful that Greece is being indulgently reorganized at our expense. If we follow public opinion here with its cheap propaganda and not wanting to pay, then eventually the old bills will be presented again.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Looking at history, what would be the best solution for Greece — and for Germany?

Ritschl: The German bankruptcies in the last century show that the sensible thing to do now would be to have a real reduction of the debt. Anyone who has lent money to Greece would then have to give up a considerable part of what they were owed. Some banks would not be able to cope with that, so there would have to be new aid programs. For Germany, this could be expensive, but we will have to pay either way. At least Greece would then have the chance to start over.

Interview conducted by Yasmin El-Sharif

Source: Spiegel Online 06/21/2011

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